October 5, 2014
Novak Djokovic almost served up a dreaded “double bagel” for Tomas Berdych in a ridiculously one-sided China Open final.
‘Something from above came into me,’ Djokovic claimed later, struggling to explain his own brilliance.
No wonder the Serb suggested his tennis had been Heaven-sent. The quality of his game was quite mind-blowing. And then, as if he hadn’t shown enough perfection, Novak addressed a charmed Beijing crowd in Chinese!
In the end it seemed that Djokovic almost chose to allow Berdych to avoid the double-bagel humiliation. Even so, his breathtaking 6-0, 6-2 demolition job took just one hour and six minutes.
For a man who might have been distracted by the forthcoming birth of his first child, Djokovic was in ruthless mood as he earned $604,000 worth of prize money with consummate ease.
The merciful gift of two late games to a grateful Berdych at least removed the air of embarrassment that had descended on the arena.
Djokovic explained later: ‘It was probably the best performance in the finals that I’ve ever had. Everything I tried worked, it was incredible really. Something from above came into me. Beijing is definitely my lucky place, I enjoy being here. Since I first played the China Open in 2005, I haven’t lost and I enjoy the generosity of the people and the energy.’
The only generosity on offer during the match came at the very end and spared Berdych’s blushes. He had come within a point of total oblivion and even offered his racquet to a ball girl at one stage. Many thought he was paying the price for refusing to attack the net behind his powerful serve.
Yet by the end he had saved three championship points and brought warm cheers from the crowd for some semblance of a fightback, before he succumbed to the inevitable.
Berdych admitted: ‘Novak was outstanding and I didn’t have a single moment when I could think differently. The crowd was amazing, I wanted to make it longer but that’s sport.’
For Djokovic, the success story continues; a fifth title of the year and his fifth China Open, followed by several sentences for his millions of fans, delivered in Chinese.
When the best tennis player in the world tells China how much he loves being there, and even pays the Beijing public the added compliment of trying to speak to them in their native language, you know that tennis in the Far East has truly arrived. This is not just a valuable addition to the global game, it is now one of the highlights of the tennis calendar.
In Tokyo a few hours earlier, Kei Nishikori was triumphant in the Japan Open. There were tears of relief as the local hero came good yet again.
The love-in between Novak and the Chinese public rounded off an extraordinary day in the Far East.
Well done China and Japan for putting on some wonderful tennis shows, we thank you.
Before very long it will be London’s turn. And in June, we look forward to giving you all a warm welcome at Wimbledon 2015.